AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The prosecution's star witness in the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort got hammered by the other side yesterday. During cross-examination, Rick Gates revealed that he had lied and embezzled from his former business partner. Today, the government got its chance to undo some of that damaging testimony. NPR's national Justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been covering Manafort's trial on tax and bank fraud charges. She was in the courtroom in Alexandria, Va., today. And she joins us now. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So how did prosecutors do today in trying to rehabilitate Rick Gates from some of the pain the defense inflicted on cross-examination?
JOHNSON: Yeah. The government needed to kind of restore some sense of credibility to Rick Gates today. And they had him go through some essential elements of his testimony. Today, from the witness stand, Rick Gates reiterated that he engaged in financial hijinks at Paul Manafort's direction. And he pointed out you didn't have to be an accountant to know that Cyprus, where these men held many foreign bank accounts, is a foreign country. And of course that should have been disclosed on their tax returns.
Gates also testified when the FBI first approached Manafort and Rick Gates years ago to ask about some money that had been looted from Ukraine, Manafort had Gates meet with a Ukrainian businessman to give him a heads-up. Now, as for the money that Gates embezzled by padding his expense accounts, Gates testified today the Ukrainians are the ones who paid those bills, not Paul Manafort.
CHANG: Now, Gates has spent more than nine hours on the witness stand over the past three days, right? I mean, who did he help more over those (laughter) nine hours, the prosecution or the defense? What's your opinion?
JOHNSON: Denting Rick Gates' credibility was the chief goal of the Manafort trial strategy. In fact, it may be the entire Manafort trial strategy. Today, they once again brought up his extramarital affairs - not just one, but defense lawyer Kevin Downing claimed that Gates had four of them today in court. He appeared to be barred from introducing more about that by that judge. Of course, the defense is trying to make this whole case about one witness.
But the prosecutors had several accountants testify, had a bookkeeper testify that Paul Manafort was savvy, very involved with his money. Today, prosecutors introduced emails from Paul Manafort himself directing people in Cyprus to transfer money from what he called my accounts there. That evidence flowed in throughout the morning. And the jury took close - took careful notes in their black-and-white composition notebooks. They were paying a lot of attention to the government case today.
CHANG: So a lot of evidence beyond the testimony of Rick Gates. Now, the government called an additional witness today. Tell us who that was.
JOHNSON: Yeah. The jury heard from two additional witnesses. The first was an FBI forensic accountant. She traced the money from those foreign bank accounts in Cyprus and other places and into the accounts of some of the vendors where Paul Manafort racked up big bills. Remember the landscapers, the cars...
CHANG: Uh-huh (laughter).
JOHNSON: ...The designer clothing? This was all income the prosecutors say should have been reported on Paul Manafort's taxes. We literally followed the money, Ailsa, all afternoon as prosecutors tried to put together the whole picture.
The jury also heard from a 34-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service. He said he looked at all these financial statements and tax returns. He found several payments were made directly to Paul Manafort's wife, Kathleen. One payment went to pay a bill for a cosmetic dentist. That was new. The point is Manafort could control where the money went, and it was his money. And he should have reported those foreign accounts on his taxes.
CHANG: And really quickly, what's the atmosphere been like in the courtroom as the prosecution's been approaching the end of this case?
JOHNSON: Very tense. The judge again clashed with prosecutors today in front of the jury and outside. The judge has been rushing these prosecutors. Prosecutor Greg Andres said, we've been focused sharply for quite some time. He said, Judge, you're not saving time. You're making this case longer. The judge did not appreciate that. He said, judges should be patient. They made a mistake when they confirmed me. Don't try my patience. This is very unusual because these are seasoned prosecutors.
CHANG: That's NPR's national Justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks, Carrie.
JOHNSON: My pleasure.
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